Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We recently concluded about two weeks of long hours on the “virtual” House floor debating and voting on bills now in the Senate – including some very bad bills. I will give you an overview of that legislation, provide information on the governor's Phase 3 plan, update you on my legislation still advancing and the details of our virtual town hall meeting coming up. Let me know if you have any questions.
Virtual town hall meeting
On Wednesday, March 24, at 7 p.m., Sen. Judy Warnick, Rep. Alex Ybarra, and I would like to invite you to a virtual town hall meeting to discuss the many issues before us this year in the legislative session.
The virtual town hall event is a great way for you to visit with your legislators let your voice be heard. We look forward to answering your questions and listening to your concerns.
The remote town hall event will be conducted using the Zoom platform. If you would like to participate you must pre-register in advance. To do so, go to representativetomdent.com or representativealexybarra.com. Both websites have a drop-down that links to the registration. You can also submit a question in advance through the registration. The conference can only accommodate the first 500 attendees, so register early. I look forward to visiting with you.
Governor takes our advice – announces Phase 3 plan
After more than two months, the governor revealed a Phase 3 plan Thursday. While the governor dismissed our Republican Open Safe, Open Now plan last week, it certainly appears he listened to us as he adopted elements of the plan.
You can find some of the details of his plan here. The metrics he is using for Phase 3 are below:
As you know we have sent a lot of correspondence to the governor:
- in January concerned with his regional phased plan;
- in February – reopening Kittitas County;
- in March – reopening schools in the 13th District and across the state; and
- last week our Republican leadership outlining our Open Safe, Open Now plan.
The reason for these letters is you, the people in the 13th District and across the state. Because we hear your concerns, comments and worries we have pushed hard to get our economy, schools and communities back open. Folks have made great sacrifices over the last year so we have made numerous requests of the governor and his administration to move forward and put some normalcy back in our lives. There will always be risk, but we can progress in a safe and responsible manner – people are getting vaccinated, wearing masks and social distancing when appropriate.
I recently got my first vaccination shot and have my second one coming up soon. I am not asking folks to get one, just think about it. I encourage you to stay safe and protect those around you. We need to be smart. That is why we are able to move forward. In the meantime, I can assure you we will continue working on your behalf to further open up our economy, communities and schools.
Speaking of schools, the governor, along with Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal, also announced additional steps for school districts to open up further. You can find information here, and a Q&A here. I believe most of the school districts in our region are already meeting these guidelines.
The last couple of weeks we have spent long days and nights debating bills on our “virtual” House floor. Most bills pass with strong bipartisan support. However, we had a number of very contentious bills – some we debated more than five hours. Here is a breakdown of some bills I am very concerned with:
- House Bill 1091 | Low-carbon fuel standard (LCFS) mandate | The LCFS could drive the price of gas up by as much as 57 cents a gallon, and diesel as high as 63 cents a gallon, without generating any new revenue for transportation projects. It would hurt our ag industry and do little to improve air quality. It passed the House 52-46.
- House Bill 1054 | Police tactics and equipment | This would take away tools police officers rely on to de-escalate situations and avoid the need to use deadly force. I am also concerned about the impact on smaller, rural law enforcement staffs that cannot respond with multiple officers. It passed the House 54-43.
- House Bill 1310 | Use of force by officers | This bill fails to recognize a number of circumstances where force may be required to ensure public safety. Officers are professionals and should be held to a professional standard (i.e., the “reasonable officer standard”). This bill undercuts the reasonable officer standard established in I-940. It passed the House 55-42.
- House Bill 1078 | Felon voting rights | Would automatically restore felon voting rights before completed sentences, including for those who committed heinous violent and sexual offenses. Passed the House 57-41.
- House Bill 1097 | Worker protections | This legislation would shift costs to employers and creates vague standards and uncertainty at a difficult time for businesses. It passed the House 53-44.
- House Bill 1236 | Rental property rights | This would take away the rights of property owners to determine who they can rent to or when and why they can evict a tenant. Government would be taking away a landlords property rights. Passed the House 54-44.
My bills still advancing
I have four bills still moving through the Legislature this session.
House Bill 1030, Community Airport Revitalization Board: This bill would put the Community Airport Revitalization Board (CARB) loan program into law. It passed the House 98-0. Scheduled for a vote in the Senate Transportation Committee.
House Bill 1198, Community Airport Coordinating Commission: This bill would extend the deadlines of the 2019 legislation to establish a commission to study the feasibility of constructing a new commercial airport or modifying an existing airport to reduce the pressure on Sea-Tac. Due to the coronavirus we have not been able to meet the timelines. It passed the House 96-0 and is scheduled for a public hearing in the Senate Transportation Committee.
House Bill 1355, Noxious weeds: My noxious weed legislation is important so farmers can keep noxious weeds out of their crops so they can export them. The bill passed the House 97-0 and is scheduled for a vote in the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources and Parks.
House Bill 1290, Aircraft fuel tax distribution: This legislation changes the current distribution of the aircraft fuel retail tax, and reallocates some of the total tax revenue to the state aeronautics account. My bill, nor the companion bill in the Senate, passed their respective fiscal committees before the cutoff date. However, because of its fiscal implications it could part of the budget. We probably won't know its fate until the end of session.
Remember to check out the websites below to follow the Legislature:
- The Washington State Ledger: This is a legislative news aggregator. It is a great source for information related to state government, public policy and the legislative process.
- Capitol Buzz: This daily electronic clip service offers headlines and stories from media outlets throughout the state, including newspaper, radio, and television.
- The Current: This an online legislative publication from the Washington House Republicans that is sent out every week during the legislative session.
- TVW: The state's own version of C-SPAN, TVW broadcasts floor and committee action live online. This will be an important tool with the session being “virtual.”
Click here for information on how to stay involved and testify remotely.
If you have any questions, comments, or concerns about the legislative issues in this email update or about the upcoming virtual town hall, do not hesitate to contact my office. I look forward to visiting with you on March 24.
It is an honor to serve the great folks of the 13th Legislative District!